SAN JOSE -- Two Santa Cruz police officers shot and killed last week were hailed as heroes for giving their lives to protect their community as leaders invoked their memory to promise the city will move forward and recover from their deaths.
Thousands of officers, officials and the public gathered at the HP Pavilion to honor Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, 51, and Detective Elizabeth Butler, 38, who were ambushed on Feb. 26, the first officers killed in the line of duty in the Santa Cruz Police Department's 150-year history.
The 2 1/2-hour memorial was filled with memories, tears and even laughter.
The most poignant moments of the memorial came when their families came to the stage to speak.
Butler's partner, Peter Wu, walked up slowly holding the hand of their oldest son, Joaquin, who wore his mother's police hat and was clutching a teddy bear.
Wu, fighting back tears, promised Butler he would take care of their boys, make sure they always remember what a great person their mother was and that the two boys would grow up upright, gentle and loving.
"Her memory will service as my guiding light. Her legacy will be carried on in our family and our sons and they people they will touch. She will live on," Wu said.
He ended with "I miss you so much, Beth," then looked down at Joaquim who he was carrying in his left arm. "We will miss you so much. Good bye my love."
One of Baker's two daughters, Jillian, spoke as her brother, Adam, a Santa Cruz police community service officer stood in his uniform, his hat pushed low over his eyes.
Jillian said she struggled for the right words about her father until she found the card she had written for him on Father's Day 2005.
"You have done so much just so I could be happy," she read. "You have fought for me, cared for me and put my safety first."
She said she would carry on the values, morals and lessons he instilled in her.
"Daddy, I love yo more than you'll ever know," Jillian Baker said.
A series of public officials also paid tribute to the officers.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who as a congressman represented Santa Cruz, called the killings "a horrific act of senseless violence."
"Just as those shots took the lives of these two fine officers, those same bullets ripped the fabric of our community and our family,'' Panetta said.
Panetta said the officers "paid the ultimate price to keep us safe. Butch and Elizabeth, you will forever be remembered as our heroes and our patriots."
Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant talked about the common grief of the community in the deaths of the officers, whom she called "our two heroes" who inspired the community by their actions and lives.
She thanked the officers for being a "clear beacon" for making the community a place of pride.
"We cannot bring them back," she said. "However, as a community we will move forward, knowing that's what they would have wanted."
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zack Friend also talked the how inspired the community is from hearing stroies about the officers and about the healing.
"We will heal over time but never forget the lives of these two extraordinary people" who fought for family, community and justice.
Santa Cruz will "rise from the ashes" as it did from the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
This, he said, is the "biggest emotional earthquake that our community has ever felt."
Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said the family asked him to keep it light. So he did, with a laugh coming when he called out Gov. Jerry Brown, asking him if anyone had every told the governor he bares a "striking resemblence to me," something Baker was the first to tell him.
Baker, Clark said, was car guy, practical joker, but also a man with a deeper side. "the ultimate go-to guy."
Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said: "This is not something we've ever dealt with before in our department, and for us the pain is still too fresh. How do we feel the holes in our hearts, how do we take the next step?"
Vogel did take time to thank for supporting his department. And he gave special thanks to the four officers who he said brought the man who killed Baker and Butler to justice. Suspect Jeremy Peter Goulet, 35, was shot and killed by officers 30 minutes later after the two officers were killed.
Vogel recalled Butler's "tireless efforts on behalf of the victims of crimes and the underprivileged."
"She believed we as the police have to work hand in hand with our fellow citizens, that we have to solve our problems together," he said.
The chief thanked Baker, a 28-year veteran of the department, for teaching him how to be a leader.
"I dont know if Butch is the first guy to wear shorts in heaven, but I know he's making the angels laugh as he watches over us today," said Vogel, referring to Baker's penchant for wearing shorts.
Santa Cruz police Officer Laurel Schonfield also shared a funny story about Butler, a 10-year veteran. She recounted that when Butler went to get her first search warrant, the judge asked her to raise her hand to swear the grounds for the warrant were true. Butler surprised by judge by high-fiving himm Schonfield said.
The service was preceded by a somber procession of more than 200 police and other vehicles from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk to the arena -- a 33-mile journey that saw hundreds of firefighters, police and the public standing along the streets and overpasses to salute the officers.
At the arena, a huge American flag flew in front, suspended from the ladders of two fire trucks as thousands of law enforcement officers gathered for the memorial.
Videos of the two officers played on a giant screen inside the arena before the memorial began.
Law enforcement officers hailed from every corner of the state, many gathered in small, somber huddles outside the HP Pavilion in San Jose, hours before the memorial was set to begin.
Officers Pat Ryan and William Hillyard of the Irvine Police Department looked weary. After Thursday's memorial, they will have attended memorials for five California officers killed in the line of duty this year.
Last year, they said, there were just two officer deaths. California averages about 10 to 12 police killings most years.
"That's the thing about the law of averages," Hillyard said. "It always catches up to you."
Law enforcement officials set a national goal to keep the number of police fatalities in the line of duty to less than 100 this year. Ryan fears California's recent string of violence will push that goal out of reach.
A group of California Highway Patrol dispatchers took a few moments to gather themselves outside the pavilion. Much of the CHP dispatch office in Salinas -- those who weren't helping with the procession -- took the morning off for the memorial.
"The law enforcement community really is a family," said dispatcher Cara Vanderford. "Everybody's pretty solemn."
Santa Cruz mourners made the long trek to the HP Pavilion still in a state of grief. As some climb the stairs, the outpouring of tears began; the weeks of built up sorrow too much to bear.
The memorial would not provide any closure, said Santa Cruz resident Tom Ward, because closure would not be had in a tragedy such as this.
"There are some people who do some really bad things," said his wife, Deon Ward. "And I'm really grateful that we have police officers who put their lives on the line everyday. I see them as peacekeepers."
Fernando Alvarez of Santa Cruz was a friend of Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker's for more than 40 years, he said. Their families had grown up together, and Alvarez said he and Baker dabbled in buying and selling cars together. Alvarez brought his daughter, nephew and grandchildren to the memorial.
"It's been hard in Santa Cruz. It's sad," he said. "The whole city is in shock."
He said the city would feel the officers' absence for years to come, but the outpouring of support on Thursday would help it heal.
"Today has been beautiful," he said.
James Burtnett, 57, has four relatives who are retired police officers and one relative still working as a cop.
"You know when they walk out the door they might not come home," Burtnett said. "I feel for them."
Among the other Santa Cruz residents was a third grade teacher from Gault Elementary School, located near the home where Baker and Butler were gunned down. Pam Hernandez, 62, said police searched the homes of some of her students soon after the killings as they looked for a possible second suspect.
Hernandez said she spent time discussing what happened with her students, who wrote letters to the police department thanking officers for keeping them safe and expressing their sorrow for deaths of their colleagues.
Thursday, Hernandez said she took off work so she could experience the memorial and report back to her students.
Employees spilled out of businesses along West Julian Street to watch, in mostly silence, the procession for the two fallen officers. It was for San Jose residents a day of reflection on the recent wave of violence that has gripped some California cities and a grave reminder of the dangers that police officers face daily, even in a kick-back, unassuming surfing town.
"It's just so emotional," said Lori Smith, a public health nurse at San Jose social services. Smith joined a crowd at West Julian Street and Highway 87 to watch the procession. "These are people who put their lives on the line everyday. We have our own drama at work and it just seems so trivial."
A woman nearby held her hands up as the procession passed, muttering a prayer.
"I'm putting my hands over them for safety," she said.
"American Idol" star and Santa Cruz native James Durbin, who met Baker when the officer would chaperone high school dances, sang "Arms Wide Open" by Creed. The Rev. Rene Schlaepfer at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos chaired the memorial, which ended with a lone bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace."
The procession to and from the arena will cause traffic delays, including on Highways 17 and 87.
As the procession gathered earlier in the morning near the Santa Cruz Boardwalk under cloudy skies, Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy Cathy Bramanti said that day was all about solidarity.
Bramanti donned her uniform for the first and last time in more than two years Thursday. She knows firsthand how no day in law enforcement is a given.
"Odd as it sounds, I'm just happy to be here to honor the two officers that were killed," Bramanti said. "You never know what you will face. It really is a brotherhood and a sisterhood."
Bramanti was beaten, disarmed and shot with her own Taser in November 2010 by a convicted felon while on a routine visit from the Santa Cruz County Jail to Dominican Hospital. She has been on medical leave since and is thankful to be alive.
Virginia Baker, who along with her husband, Loran, of Fresno came to the Boardwalk Thursday morning to greet the crowd of officers there to honor their son.
"It's a sad day," Virginia Baker said.
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Santa Cruz Sentinel reporters and editors contributed to this report.